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Theatre

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for February 24 to 26

A still from "Bruce-O-Rama" by Claire Hodge.

Friday, Feb. 24
The spirit of martial arts — and Bruce Lee — comes alive in “Bruce-o-Rama,” an interactive exhibition by Claire Hodge at the Ottawa School of Art that opens Feb. 23. You may feel like you’re entering a cinema when you first walk into the gallery, but this is no movie theatre. Here, floor pressure sensors trigger footage of Bruce Lee’s films, which plays in loops. Clips interact with each other in new and complex ways, fitting together like a mixed-up jigsaw puzzle. You don’t have to be the world’s biggest Bruce Lee fan to enjoy this exhibit — you just need an open mind and a willingness to see things in a new light.

“Pay it forward” is today’s theme for Ottawa Kindness Week, which began on Feb. 17 and ends today. The idea behind Kindness Week is to promote different kind actions in order to build a sense of community, which will hopefully last beyond this dedicated week. So, in sticking with the “pay it forward” mantra, the next time someone is kind to you, make a conscious effort to pay that kindness forward by being kind to another person, which will help make a positive difference in the daily life of our society.

Saturday, Feb. 25
Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm has been producing authentic maple syrup since the 1800s. Be part of this experience on opening day when maple syrup season kicks off with a flurry of family friendly activities. See horse drawn sap collection, enjoy tasty taffy in the snow, go for a sleigh ride, visit the Sugar Shack, and have a pancake brunch at the Pancake House in this celebration of Canadian traditions. The season runs until April 8.

Spontaneous hilarity and imagination are all part of the experience at the Canadian Improv Games: Regional Tournament Finals taking place this Saturday at the National Arts Centre, which sees high school students from around the city compete. See the final four teams and the wild card winners battle it out in this final round of the tournament that will make you LOL. (more…)

Where in Toronto: Getting Back to the Theatre

Inside the Ed Mirvish Theatre

Each week, our intrepid interns reflect on life
and times in the big city.

When I think of theatre, I time-machine back to junior high, where I discovered an interest in acting. Encouraged by Ms. Olsen, who was as cool and as in-love-with-Shakespeare as drama teachers come, I auditioned for—and won—a role as a Men in Black–style agent in a ridiculous student-written play called Phlegm and Larry in the Search for Elvis (don’t ask). It was the complete opposite of classics like The Wizard of Oz and Annie that I had seen performed in previous years; of course it was an instant hit.

Unfortunately, after that successful debut, my play-acting ambitions largely took a backseat to academics. It was not until university—and a few courses on Shakespeare—that theater and I were truly reacquainted. In a class full of drama majors, I took comfort in at least knowing the difference between upstage and downstage and being able to identifying a soliloquy. But reading drama isn’t the same as watching it on stage. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for February 3 to 5

Quinsin Nachoff is just one of the performers taking the stage at the Ottawa Winter Jazzfest.

Friday, Feb. 3
Jazz up your weekend by taking in the international and local talent at the first annual Ottawa Winter Jazzfest. Whether you’re a seasoned jazz enthusiast or looking to diversify your musical tastes, this festival promises to thaw that winter chill. Hop all over downtown Ottawa, from the National Arts Centre to Club SAW to the Mercury Lounge to catch the smooth sounds of artists such as Megan Jerome, Quinsin Nachoff, Remi Bolduc, and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble of Chicago.

Experience Ottawa’s diverse architecture and examine the relationship between architecture, the arts, and politics through music with Polytectures. This sound walk was created by Montreal’s Antoine Bédard and 10 local musicians. Through a variety of musical styles, Polytectures allows visitors and locals alike to experience Ottawa’s architecture in new ways by pairing songs with local landmarks. Although the entire walk is an hour long, it has been divided into sections with warm-up breaks for Winterlude.

If you’re a film buff with a soft spot for independent cinema, then you’re going to want to Get Iced this weekend. The Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa is presenting 10 new Super 8 short films made by local filmmakers in cooperation with Winterlude. Afterwards, unwind with drinks at the Soviet-style reception hosted by Avant-Garde Bar and Gift Shop. The party continues at the bar after 9:30pm with live music and no cover charge.

This Friday, Yamantaka //Sonic Titan and Boyhood bring the party to Babylon. Yamantaka //Sonic Titan are a psychedelic opera group that fuses noise, metal, folk, and pop music to create an east-meets-west culture clash extravaganza. Boyhood is new on the Ottawa scene, bringing catchy songs with haunting melodies. (more…)

Hot Dates: Get Lucky at the Casino

The gaming floor is a hot spot at the Casino du Lac-Leamy.

Revel in the energy and excitement at the Casino du Lac-Leamy, where there’s more to do than gamble (although there’s plenty of that, too!). In February, take in one of the shows that are on the bill (ABBA Memories, Dance into the Light, or The British Invasion: Beatles Story). Enjoy dinner at the gourmet Le Baccara or one of the other restaurants, have drinks at one of four bars (including a lounge for cigar aficionados), and then hit the large collection of slots and try your luck on the gaming floor, where someone won $1.86 million in November.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for December 9 to 11

Self-portrait entitled "Julie" by Julie LaPalme, whose work will be on view at Lemonjellow.

Friday, Dec. 9
If you’re looking for a fun holiday jam with a bit of an artsy twist, Lemonjellow’s weekend pARTy “Deck the Halls” is just the thing for you. Lemonjellow Productions is an art collective that aims to display art in all different sorts of ways. This weekend, the works of nine local artists will be on display and for sale at back-to-back holiday parties. The party starts at 8pm this Friday and lasts well into the night with the help of a DJ and some Christmas tunes. Bring a present to be re-gifted in support of Pink Triangle Youth, and leave with some great art priced $50-$300. A party runs Saturday at the same time, and a tamer cookies-and-coffee party is happening on Sunday.

If you’re looking to take a break from the holiday madness, take a road trip to Gananoque (about two hours away), where you can catch Robin Hood! A Children’s Holiday Pantomime. This beloved adventure story is being performed as a “panto” – a performance with a musical-comedy twist that has men playing women… and vice-versa! Some laughs, a fun road trip, a good time with family and friends, and a unique performance style – this outing has it all. Play runs until Dec. 23.

Saturday, Dec. 10
If you’re looking to broaden your cultural horizons beyond Santa Claus, come out to Carleton University’s campus on Saturday night. No, we’re not suggesting joining the students who are studying for exams; instead, check out Kala Tarang: An Evening of Indian Dance and Music, which is a concert highlighting the work of the students of Gharana Arts. Other performers include Kasturi Mishra, who will be performing traditional Kathak Nritya, and Udit Bhide and Ravi Singh, performing Sitar and Tabla Vadhya. Whether you are familiar with this style of dance or not, you will walk away with an increased knowledge of the rich cultural traditions of Indian performing arts.

As if the holidays don’t have enough temptation, the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF) is back for a second year. This Saturday, 25 local food artisans will be coming together to sell their delicious products, including cookies, pies, cheeses, jams, chocolates, and more. Sample some products and choose your favourites to purchase as gifts or to take home for yourself. A silent auction of select products will raise money for the School Breakfast Program that feeds 11,000 children in Ottawa daily. So head out to delight your taste buds and support a good cause, as well. (more…)

Hot Date: Memphis Raises the Roof for Rock

photo by Joan Marcus

DECEMBER 6 to 24 The life of Dewey Phillips, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s pioneering disc jockeys, inspires a story of fame, forbidden love, and a rousing new style of music in Memphis. Follow the intertwined paths of a white radio DJ and a black club singer through the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, where the sounds
of soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues fuse together to create the anthems of a young generation poised to confront racial segregation in the American south. The 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Memphis also features a Tony Award-winning original score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan. Christopher Ashley directs the show, in Toronto for a limited run, while former Jersey Boys choreographer Sergio Trujillo crafts the musical’s exhilarating dance routines. Toronto Centre for the Arts, Tuesday to Sunday, $51 to $180; call 416-644-3665 or click here for showtimes and tickets.

You Are Here: Old Strathcona

Image courtesy of Noel Zinger

With over 600 eclectic, independent and alternative shops and services to explore, it’s little wonder Old Strathcona is regarded as the place to experience Edmonton’s finest live theatre and music, boutique shopping, dining and nightlife. Read on for some of our top spots in this historical district and then visit www.oldstrathcona.ca for even more. (more…)

Hot Date: The Canadian Stage Company Sees Red

Jim Mezon and David Coomber in Red (photo by Bruce Zinger)

NOVEMBER 24 TO DECEMBER 17 Abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko’s rise to fame in the 1950s came with heightened scrutiny and the burden of creating a masterpiece. With the eyes of the artistic community fixated on him, he set to work on one of his best-known commissions, a series of murals for the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York’s Seagram Building. Now, the Canadian Stage Company offers a peek into Rothko’s studio with Red, the 2010 Tony Award-winning play that fictionalizes the artist’s struggle to produce his murals while reconciling notions of commercialism and fame. With a script by acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter John Logan, Rothko (Jim Mezon) and his young assistant, Ken (David Coomber) grapple with ideas about art, relevance and the role of artists. The performance includes an original score by former ­Barenaked Ladies musician Andy Creeggan, which was inspired by the music Rothko listened to while painting.
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Bluma Appel Theatre, Monday to Saturday 8 p.m., Wednesday 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., $24 to $99; call 416-368-3110 or click here for tickets.

12 Days of Christmas in Ottawa

By Misa Kobayashi.

While the traditional carol offers up lords-a-leaping and swans-a-swimming, we bring you 12 ideas for fun outings and events to take you through the holiday season (no partridge required). (more…)

Salute to Victoria’s Artistic Season

Winter in Victoria brings shorter days for sure, but it also brings a thriving arts calendar with plenty to entertain.

Stage Struck

The University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre continues its 2011-12 season with Ben Travers’ witty, fast-paced Rookery Nook, November 3 to 19. Comparable to the comedies of Noel Coward, the tale follows two fun-loving friends who get caught in a tangled web of silly white lies and flirtatious innuendos.

Following in February is Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, a reimagining of the classic myth of Orpheus and the Underworld through the eyes of its quirky heroine, Eurydice – “a magical and little menacing twist on an age-old tale.”

From the city’s historic Belfry Theatre comes David French’s Jitters, November 15 to December 18. As a new play is poised to open, plunge into a hilarious world of larger-than-life personalities, easily bruised egos, faulty props, lost lines and a visit from a big-time producer – all adding to the opening night “jitters” of cast, crew, writer and director.

Come January, it’s time for on the edge at the Belfry January 24 to February 26, featuring Susinn McFarlen in a tour de force performance exploring three women from three very different walks of life.

Langham Court Theatre is one of Victoria’s longest -standing companies for good reason. This winter, enjoy The Beauty Queen of Leenane, November 17 to December 3, featuring drama, suspense and black comedy in a small Irish village. The stage takes on a musical tone in January when Langham Court presents The Drowsy Chaperone, a Tony Award-winner recalling the golden age of musical theatre.

Dance, Victoria!

Take a time out during the hectic holiday season to enjoy Ballet Victoria’s Cinderella & the Fairy Tale Ball, when dazzling fairy tale guests offer music, magic, humour and holiday cheer at the Royal Theatre December 27 to 30.

Dance Victoria’s season continues with England’s Random Dance, from choreographer Wayne McGregor, before welcoming Alberta Ballet and the Victoria Symphony for the holiday production of The Nutcracker, December 2 to 4. Come February, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba visits to present an evening of mixed repertoire of classical ballet.

Making Music

Musical diversity rules this winter as Victoria welcomes shows ranging from Canadian rocker Matthew Good to classic opera.

November 10 to 20 presents the world premiere of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Mary’s Wedding: “The story is eternal. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. But the year is 1914, and Mary and Charlie must surrender their love and their fate to the uncertainties of their tumultuous times.”

Turning the calendar to February, POV presents Bizet’s Carmen, in French with English surtitles. “Bad, beguiling, and dangerous to know, Carmen will never let herself be chained down by any one man. When she fixes on Don José as her next (but certainly not her last) lover, the naïve but volatile young soldier hasn’t a chance… Tragedy is inevitable, but what a ride along the way!”

On a lighter note, the 80-voice Starlight Pops Choir will get toes tapping in February with Pop Rocks!, featuring classic tunes from Elton John, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, U2, Coldplay and more, February 3 and 5 at St. Aidan’s United Church, 3703 St. Aidan’s St, about 20 minutes from downtown. For details, visit  www.starlightpopschoir.com

Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra celebrates a remarkable 26th season with performances November 27 and February 12 at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium, under the baton of Yariv Aloni.

February’s Salute to the Rat Pack from the Victoria Symphony is sure to be a highlight of the New Year. Join the symphony and vocalist Matt Catingub for a celebration of the music, artistry and songs of Las Vegas and the “Rat Pack,” including I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Night and Day, Ain’t that a Kick in the Head
and A Lot of Livin’ To Do. For more performances see pages 17 to 21.

A monster season

Two of the city’s biggest cultural institutions launch exciting new seasons.

Neptune Theatre is the biggest professional theatre in Atlantic Canada, so the launch of a new season is always a big deal. This year, the new season begins on September 13 with Frankenstein. Continuing through October 9, it’s a bold and ambitious retelling of the Mary Shelley classic.

For a theatre company that spent last season highlighting Shakespeare, it may seem a bit of a left turn, but artistic director George Pothitos is constantly working to challenge audiences. “At Neptune, we strive to inspire our audiences with great stories,” he says. “The plays we’ve chosen this year reflect this.”

Other highlights this season include the classic The Jungle Book (November 22 to January 8), the world premiere of Norm Foster’s Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out and the fabulously glitzy La Cage aux Folles (April 10 to May 27).

“They are a blend of intelligent, engaging, funny, challenging and whimsical theatrical experiences,” Pothitos says. “The struggles and triumphs of these characters from around the world—India, France, Switzerland, Newfoundland, Calgary and New York—illuminate our own lives, our struggles and our triumphs.”

In addition to the main-stage shows, Neptune boasts an intimate Studio Stage where it offers even more for fans. The season there begins with the poignant tale of aging, Another Home Invasion (October 11 to 23). “Our quest for excellence and innovation is present in everything we do,” Pothitos says. “The plays and musicals we program, the directors we choose, and the designers, actors and creative staff we thoughtfully assemble. They all come together to create a unique theatrical event.”

Meanwhile, music fans are anxiously awaiting the start of Symphony Nova Scotia’s new season. They’ll have to be patient until September 20, when Symphony Week features a variety of free concerts at venues around the city, previewing the new season.

The first full concert of the season is on September 30 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue in Halifax. And it’s also one of the orchestra’s most exciting shows of the season. Juno-award winning singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman takes the stage for his first orchestral show. Workman is one of the most innovative musicians in rock today, so this is sure to be an unforgettable show. There’s an encore performance on October 1.

Under Maestro Bernhard Gueller, Symphony Nova Scotia has become known for its ability to embrace new styles and artists. “Symphony Nova Scotia is the most versatile orchestra in Canada,” says legendary conductor Howard Cable. Still active at age 91, Cable joins the Symphony to conduct The Big Band Era on October 4.

After the Hawksley Workman show, the Symphony races into a busy season. Other highlights include the Christmas classics The Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah in December, The Music of Pink Floyd in February and the French Festival from April 18 to 22.

Life Under the Big Top with Cirque du Soleil

A hoops dancer enthralls in Cirque du Soleil's Totem (photo by Daniel Desmarias)

AUGUST 11 TO OCTOBER 9 Never known to shy away from a challenge, Cirque du Soleil makes magic out of a most ambitious subject, the evolution of life on earth, in its latest touring production. This month, Totem comes alive under the Grand Chapiteau with more than 50 cast members from around the world. Colourfully adorned hoop dancers, unicyclists, acrobats and more take the stage in this magically evocative display.

Unfolding like an epic creation myth, Totem begins with prehistory, envisioning the original amphibian state from which many animals grew, and progresses through a variety of acrobatic feats to ultimately reflect the evolution of human aspiration. Much of the action takes place on a stylized turtle shell representing Mother Earth, a common theme of many origin stories. Other memorable characters include a grey-haired clown reminiscent of Charles Darwin, as well as the Crystal Man—signifying the “life force”—who drops from the sky in a ball of energy, his costume glittering with tiny mirrors and crystals.

Totem is the second collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and master theatre director Robert Lepage. Its April 2010 world premiere thrilled audiences in Montreal, and since then it has played in Quebec City, Amsterdam and London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. No doubt the production will have Toronto audiences clamouring for more—a desire that can be fulfilled when the troupe returns in October to present a show based on the music of Michael Jackson. The Grand Chapiteau at the Port Lands, Tuesday to Thursday 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 and 8 p.m., Sunday 1 and 5 p.m., adults $73.50 to $248.50, children (aged 2 to 12) $54 to $208; call 1-800-450-1480 or visit here to purchase tickets.